What I Wish Every New Teacher Knew

Being a teacher is not about “teaching,” it’s about making students learn…

I spent two straight hours today dictating notes on Communism in the USSR and China. Students finished the session with 18 notes cards filled with bullet points for terms that could appear on the Global History Regents Exam next Tuesday, along with pictures and movements for each to help them remember the terms. Here’s what I (more or less) told them when we were done:

I’m sorry we ran out of time today, because it means you haven’t learned anything. It’s great that you have all these notes written down, but until you re-read the information, teach it to others, compare and contrast it, apply it to new situations, and, finally, analyze and assess it through writing, you will not have learned a thing. Learning is doing, and you haven’t done much today. We’ll start with that tomorrow.

Today I “played school” (the phrase is not mine, but it’s been years since I read where I’m stealing it from). I pretended to “teach;” the students pretended to “learn.” My classroom would have looked good to anyone watching through the window, and perhaps, my students might even do well answering some multiple choice questions on the info next week. In fact, my class looked like 90% of those I sat through in my high school.  But nothing of any lasting value happened today, because my students didn’t really do anything meaningful with the facts they wrote down. Fortunately, the state exam that will determine whether or not they graduate will not hold them or me accountable for this.


4 thoughts on “What I Wish Every New Teacher Knew

  1. What I wish every teacher knew, and is directly in line with what you are saying in your blog: “Research shows that whoever is doing the most work in the classroom is doing the most learning.” This fact means that if you are lecturing and the students are listening to you, then you are learning more than the students as they are doing much less work… stop TALKING and let the students write, discuss, analyze, dissect, graph, record, create… heck.. ANY of the verbs on Bloom’s Taxonomy would be better than passively listening.


  2. So is this idea greater than a parasite ? In your opinion ?

    Over twenty years of analysis has convinced me that even the best teachers in the school suffer at the hand of politics. Teachers, if they could afford to politically, have shocking insights into many practices that have intense impacts on many that cannot be brought to light.
    We need engineers and designers not preachers in this struggle against the autocratic corporate model. Anonymous surveys will make that possible even if your principal is a washed up coach. I have never had more passion for anything than this anonymous survey concept for oversight, check and balance, and giving a voice to the muted. Even the unions have lost touch with members because this approach is avoided.Thank you for noticing.


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